Last year, in the week after the Trade Deadline Blogathon, I took my only five-day vacation of the year (which featured a maximum of one or two posts per day – it’s not like I can *completely* leave this place!). For reasons completely untied to the Cubs world, I decided to push my vacation back a bit this year, into September or October (a safe bet for clear skies). Turns out that was a pretty damn lucky decision, as this past week for the Cubs has been busier than even the typical week in July! I can’t imagine having missed the bulk of what’s happened this week.
Against that backdrop, you can expect a busier Saturday than usual.
- Five starts do not a baseline make – especially when you haven’t been through the league two or three times – but I remain as intrigued by Tsuyoshi Wada as I was the day the Cubs signed him to a minor league deal. Increasingly, the only knocks you can lob against him are “he’s 33!” (which can be neutered by discussion of his success in Japan, his subsequent Tommy John surgery, and the cheap team control he could provide for the next several years when he’s still “young” enough to be a successful starter), and “he doesn’t throw hard!” (which can be neutered by pointing to how effective his 90/91mph fastball has been, through a combination of sequencing, location, and deception). Because one thing you can’t hold against him are the results: after dominating at AAA this year, Wada has posted a 3.25 ERA, a 3.35 FIP, and a 3.60 xFIP with sustainable peripherals (.295 BABIP, 74.5% left on base rate, 41.0% groundball rate, 7.7% HR/FB rate). Only that last one gives you pause, given how he elevates his pitches – Wada will probably give up a few more homers. But only enough to knock his numbers down to what you’d like to see from a 4/5 (he’s currently pitching like a solid 3). His 21.7% K rate and 7.8% BB rate, in tandem, are freaking excellent. The caveat, alluded to above: how will he fare when teams start seeing him for the second and third times?
- (Even if you refuse to accept that the Cubs could use a quality 4/5 for the next two or three years in the form of Wada, which he could easily do at his age, seeing him pitch this well for the rest of the year should excite you just the same; given the Cubs’ depth in this 4/5 range, and plans to add impact pitching, could Wada emerge as a really interesting trade chip over the offseason?)
- How dramatic was the Javier Baez attendance bump yesterday? It’s hard to say. While the 34,937 in paid attendance was a few thousand over the team average this year, it was also a Friday game in early August, which tends to get its own bump. The Cubs have been averaging around 30,000 on Fridays, so that shows a bump, too, though the last two Fridays – against the Braves on July 11 (39,544) and against the Cardinals on July 25 (41,534) – had much higher paid attendance. The opponents obviously helped there. So, maybe not much of a bump. But I’ve heard from many folks who were at the game that the energy there was definitely higher than its been in a long time (matching an Opening Day or the 100th Anniversary Game), and you can bet that the “paid” attendance was extremely close to the “actual” attendance in this one. I can’t imagine there were many no-shows.
- Javier Baez was aggressive yesterday, sure – he struck out four times – but I didn’t really see too many swings at pitches obviously out of the zone. There was the one ugly strikeout on the slider low and away (and another on a low, nasty changeup), but otherwise, Baez swung through some pitches in the zone, and took some well-executed pitches in the zone.
- You know that home run Javier Baez hit in Colorado that was super impressive? No, not that one. No, not that one either. Yeah, the other one. The laser to right center that came on a quality slider low and away. Jeff Sullivan did some digging and determined that it’s extremely rare for a player to be able to homer like that on a pitch like that. He calls it an anomalous dinger.
- A bit on that unfortunate check-swing strikeout that everyone except John Baker thought was ball four, leading to a run that scored off of Pedro Strop (Cubs.com).
- I assume you saw this bit of art in the outfield yesterday:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) August 8, 2014
News! The live streams I did as part of the Blogathon (and for Javy Baez Day) are going to become a regular thing. They will become the site’s equivalent of a “mailbag,” which will give the streams a little more structure (they’ll be podcast-like, but with my face in your face). Doing it live will preserve the whacky ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN! nature of the streams so far, which allows the event to still be interactive, but getting some of the questions in advance gives it a little more structure so that it’s just as enjoyable to watch on replay as it is to watch live. And that’s the idea there – I want this to be something you can watch later, if you can’t make the live event, and still get something out of it.
The first episode of Bleacher Nation TV – yup, that’s what it’s called – will be next week, with details on day/time to come. Send your mailbag questions to bntv AT bleachernation DOT com. You can still ask questions/make comments during the live stream, but sending them to the email address will be a much better way to ensure that it gets seen by me.